How to Become a National Park Volunteer

National parks give us so much. Here's how you can give back.
Renée HurleyNPF Blog
A Volunteer and Visitor at Mount Rainier National Park - NPS Photo

Volunteers are a critical part of the success of America’s national parks, especially at a time when many park resources and staff need additional support. From clearing trails to providing visitors with information to assisting archaeologists, volunteers provide invaluable services. The National Park Foundation and its partners, like Apple, help support these initiatives by encouraging the national park community to join volunteer efforts and by funding programs that invite the public to partake in them. There are many ways to roll up your sleeves and give back to America’s greatest treasures, but if you’ve ever wondered where to start, check out the following tips.

Step 1: Find Parks Near You

A volunteer cuts off a tree branch, Anacostia Park

A volunteer on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Anacostia Park

NPS Photo / Rachel Hendrix

With over 400 sites managed by the National Park Service –  and at least one national park in every state –  most Americans live within 100 miles of a national park. The National Park System includes battlefields, monuments, memorials, recreation areas, seashores, and more. Here’s how you can find volunteer opportunities in your community.

  • Search state-by-state to explore national parks near you.
  • Visit Volunteer.gov and under “Find a Volunteer Opportunity,” use the agency dropdown to select National Park Service. Then, enter your city and state to search available postings.
  • Find park-specific volunteer and contact information on the National Park Service’s volunteering website. You can search by park name, state, or zip code, and select your desired park to be directed to park-specific volunteer and contact information.

Step 2: Connect with Your Park

Two uniformed people at a desk speaking to visitors, Denali National Park and Preserve

A volunteer and park ranger at Denali National Park and Preserve

NPS Photo / Mary Lewandowski

Once you’ve identified a park, reach out to the appropriate contact and let them know you’re interested in participating in volunteer activities, individually or with a group. Below are some helpful items to know before reaching out:

  • Have an idea of your availability, including date, preference on time of day and number of hours you or your group can commit.
  • If you’re planning for a group, have an estimate of your group size. Most parks can easily accommodate groups of up to 20 people and can discuss potential options for larger parties. Let the park know if your group plans to bring lunch or snacks so they can plan a break and location for eating.
  • Let the park know if you plan to volunteer with a child to ensure available activities are age-appropriate.
  • If volunteering with a business or organization, check whether your group would be willing to provide a small capacity grant for materials in the case of volunteer projects that lack funding.

Not all parks will have an immediate opportunity, but you may be able to find an activity to help support park needs in the future.

Step 3: Explore Other Opportunities

A group of five park interns and volunteers on a hike, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Park interns and volunteers at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

NPS Photo / Connar L'Ecuyer

Parks appreciate building long-term relationships with volunteers and many offer standing volunteer opportunities or Adopt-A-Trail programs throughout the year, especially during the summer months. For those who are especially dedicated to the cause, there’s even a free Volunteer Pass that covers entrance fees at national parks (and hundreds of other public lands) for those who log 250 service hours!

National parks also celebrate several fee-free days each year in commemoration of holidays and events such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Park Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day. These occasions are a great time to reach out to parks to get involved in community volunteer activities.

While many national parks operate robust volunteer programs with a dedicated volunteer coordinator, some with limited or no capacity to host a volunteer activity. If a national park is unable to host a volunteer activity, we encourage you to explore opportunities with other public lands, perhaps a state or local park.

In the shared goal to foster connections with America’s national parks, our friends at Apple have joined us to encourage volunteerism in public lands across the country. And what’s even better, from now through August 25, Apple will donate $10 to the National Park Foundation for every purchase made with Apple Pay at any Apple Store, on apple.com, or through the Apple Store app in the U.S.* These donations will support connecting youth of all ages with national park experiences, inspiring future generations to help ensure these special places continue to be cherished now and forever.

Volunteers

Apple volunteers at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Apple

Throughout the month of August, Apple will inspire people to explore and learn more about our national parks through special content and activities:

  • Apple Watch: On August 25, Apple Watch users around the world can earn an Activity award and animated stickers for Messages inspired by Grand Canyon National Park’s 100th anniversary.**
  • Apple TV: The app will feature a national parks collection filled with breathtaking TV and movie content. Watch on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
  • Apple Music: Check out Nature Awaits, a brand new playlist inspired by the extraordinary beauty of our parks.
  • Apple Books: Starting 8/20, their collection, Our National Parks, will guide readers through the most iconic national parks in the United States.
  • Apple Podcasts: Starting 8/20, listen to shows about our national parks, hosted by the rangers and hikers that love them most.
  • App Store: A collection of some of the best apps will help people easily plan and navigate their next visit to a national park.

Learn more about Apple’s support of the National Park Foundation in their latest post

 

*Limited to the first 100,000 transactions. Subject to a $10 minimum purchase.
**National Park Foundation is also supporting the National Park Service messaging to encourage all visitors to Hike Smart and plan before setting off, whether they are at the Canyon or in a park in their own backyard.

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